Men’s Health Week: 5 ways to lower your blood pressure

Men’s Health Week (June 10-16) is hoping to raise men’s awareness of numbers like 120/80 – normal blood pressure.

Many men are well aware of the number of points won or goals scored by their favourite team, but are often much less familiar with numbers connected to their own health.

This year’s Men’s Health Week (June 10-16) aims to change that, by raising awareness of health numbers all men should know.

The  Men’s Health Forum (MHF), which runs the week, hopes making men more aware of the numbers – which largely relate to lifestyle choices including drinking, exercising, eating and smoking – will help improve their health and alter for the better alarming statistics, such as one man in five dies before the age of 65.

One of the numbers the MHF thinks men need to be aware of is 120/80 – normal blood pressure. And men who find their blood pressure is raised, leaving them at a higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke, can help lower it by being aware of, or taking action on, some of the other important Men’s Health Week numbers, including:

150: Men should aim for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week.
5: Aim to eat 5 portions of fruit and veg a day.
14: Drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week.
37: A waist size of 37 inches or above puts men at increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Martin Tod, chief executive of the MHF, says: “We want every man to know where they are on their weight, waist, alcohol, diet and exercise – and we’re particularly keen that more men know their blood pressure. It’s easy to get checked at the GP or pharmacy.

“Tragically, one UK man in five dies before his 65th birthday, and heart disease is still the biggest reason for that.  If more men know where they are on their blood pressure and heart health, then we can start to make a real difference.”

Blood Pressure UK (BPUK) says healthy lifestyle changes will help to bring blood pressure down, and suggest the following measures:

1. Eat less salt
Too much salt raises your blood pressure, so eat as little as possible. BPUK says some people with high blood pressure may even be able to avoid taking blood pressure medicication simply by cutting down on salt (always talk to your GP before stopping or changing any medication). It points out most of the salt we eat isn’t what’s added to food at the table, but is in prepared foods like bread, breakfast cereals and ready meals. So check food labels and choose low-salt options when possible.

2. Eat more fruit and veg
As the MHF recommends, eat your 5-a-day fruit and vegetables. Eating a range of different fruits and vegetables – try ‘eating the rainbow’ by making sure they’re lots of different colours – helps to lower blood pressure. An adult portion is 80g, or roughly the size of your fist, according to the NHS.

3. Maintain a healthy weight
Losing weight, if necessary, can help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of a range of health problems. BPUK says the best way to lose weight is to choose more low-fat and low-calorie foods, and increase physical activity.

4. Drink less alcohol
As stated in the Men’s Health Week numbers, drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week, as drinking too much can raise blood pressure over time. A unit is roughly half a pint of beer or cider, a small glass of wine, or a single pub measure of spirits.

5. Get more active
Being moderately active for 30 minutes five times a week can keep your heart healthy, and lower blood pressure. If finding the time’s a problem, remember that every little helps, and think about how to be more active in your daily life. Any activity that leaves you feeling warm and slightly out of breath is ideal, whether that’s using the stairs instead of taking the lift, or simply doing some hard work in the garden.

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